Difficulty: Easy but labor intensive
This eggplant stew is a kind of "creamed" dish so heavenly tasting that the Turkish name means sultan's delight. Traditionally, hünkar begendi (pronounced "HOONkar BAYendi") is traditionally an accompaniment to the spicy lamb stew called tas kebabi. There are two stories told about how this dish came about. The kitchens of the Ottoman sultans were famed for their culinary creations to please the ruler and this dish was said to have been created for Sultan Murad IV (1612?-1640). Another story attributes the naming of the dish after it had been requested by Empress Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III, when she visited the Topkapi palace in the mid- nineteenth century. The kashkaval or kasseri cheese can be found in Middle Eastern, Greek, or Armenian markets.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright. Tas kebabi surrounded by sultan's delight]
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
Preparation Time: 1:45 hours
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Roast the eggplant in a baking pan until the skins blister black, about 40 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove the flesh from the charred skins and transfer to a strainer. Leave to drain for 30 minutes to leach them of their bitter juices. Transfer to a food processor with the lemon juice and process until smooth.
2. In a large, heavy casserole, melt the butter over medium-high heat, then stir in the flour to form a roux and cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring. Remove the casserole from the heat and whisk in the milk slowly until a thick white sauce without lumps has formed. Return the casserole to the burner.
3. Stir in the pureed eggplant, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cheese and beat well until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and serve.